William Mordido

BusinessOctober 6, 2017

How to launch your first restaurant… in Melbourne

William Mordido

He’s an award winning young Kiwi chef, but William Mordido’s first pop-up restaurant is opening in Melbourne this month. Rebecca Stevenson finds out why.

William Mordido is one of those people who, when reading up their credentials, you start to feel inferior and question what you have been doing with your life.

Last year the 25 year old chef became the first New Zealander in more than 20 years to stand on the podium of the prestigious International Jeunes des Rotisseurs Competition in England. He was named Restaurant Association NZ Chef of the Year in 2014, and the former Onehunga High School old boy was one of three New Zealanders competing in the Pacific region semi-finals of the S.Pelligrino Young Chef 2018.

You might assume the Mount Wellington resident would be working for a top-notch establishment in Auckland, toiling towards one day setting up his own eponymous restaurant. Nope. Not even close. Mordido has already completed stints with SkyCity and at West Auckland’s fine dining fav, Chikos in Henderson. He is on the cusp of his first restaurant, but its not named after him or in fact, in Auckland, or New Zealand. Mordido’s first outlet will be a pop-up restaurant called Buko, and its patrons will be drawn from the discerning Melbourne market, with a six-course degustation menu on October 25 hosted by Private Dining Room.

The pop-up restaurant concept is widely used overseas, but is still relatively new in New Zealand, Mordido says. “It’s a great idea because it feeds a diner’s curiosity. When dining at a restaurant you know what to expect, but with a pop-up there’s a huge surprise factor.”


Riding shotgun are a group of seven young New Zealand chefs who Mordido wants to show the world, all the while working within established restaurants and venues. The chefs travelling to Melbourne on October 21 will be taken to dining experiences, and visit fruit and vegetable markets, fishmongers and butchers to source fresh produce directly from the vendors.

High school student Pagia Wilson will also be learning the ropes under Mordido’s leadership at Buko. Helping to develop young chefs is a key ingredient of Mordido’s business, he says. He sees this model of travelling restaurant as a way to nurture young, talented chefs; even better, it’s a solution that might help to keep them in the country.

“It’s a great opportunity for the next generation of our country’s chefs to experience a different level of cuisine and get to eat, see and be inspired to bring back new ideas.”

Why be stuck at home when you can pop-up and be global right off the bat? Mordido is already planning Buko’s next venues; with the Cook Islands and Chicago in his sights. And Auckland, of course.

Why start your business now?

I have always wanted to be self-employed and enrich my entrepreneurial skills. It is only recently that I have started to pursue it. I’ve enrolled in a business course alongside working full time and working on my personal business.

What was your reasoning behind taking this particular approach, of pop-ups rather than a standard restaurant?

I’ve always admired the pop-up model versus your standard restaurant. You eliminate many flaws a restaurant might face: the uncertainty of patrons, the no-shows which often leads to wastage and can throw off your labour versus customer ratio. It’s quite difficult to gauge this, even with experience. With the pop-up, I have the ability to change menus every single event, which keeps me thinking. Tickets are pre-purchased so I have control of how much I will be generating, how many staff I need to hire, how much food needs to be ordered. It’s a great way to minimise waste. It’s not a perfect model, but it’s a great way to start up for someone who does not have the capital to open up a fixed premises just yet.


What have you spent on your business to date? What was the largest expense?

Over $4500 on flights and accommodation for my team to come along with me to Melbourne for Buko’s first pop-up event.

Why have you chosen to go offshore?

I approached a Melbourne based events company, Private Dining Room, to be a guest chef for their monthly pop-up dinners after seeing some of their posts on social media. I immediately fell in love with that concept so I sent an email out. At the same time I had sent an email to a few establishments here in Auckland to see if they would be interested in hosting ‘Buko’ pop-up dining. The Private Dining Room were the most responsive so I naturally took the opportunity.

My aim is to take some up-and-coming chefs from NZ with me to help with the event. It’s a six-course degustation with pre-purchased tickets, the secret location only being revealed to the guests on the days of the event itself. After this, I am sure the team will be inspired to help me with future events lined up in Auckland.

Did you learn any business tips from working in restaurants?

People management and leadership are definitely the big ones. There is no manual for stuff like this and its definitely something I continue to learn about. I still keep in touch with my old mentor from SkyCity, Peter Ray, and former high school teacher Angie Wilson. They have been through similar experiences and have a wealth of knowledge, so I really respect what they say and the advice they give. In terms of a direct mentor to me and my business venture, no, I don’t have one. So if anyone is reading this and wants to mentor me, get in touch.


Have you had a “stuff this moment” where you wanted to give it away and work for someone else?

Yes many times. I recently put up a PledgeMe Campaign to raise funds towards flights and accommodation. We didn’t reach our target which was a real setback. In return for volunteering, I would pay for my team’s trip there and back. I had to take out a loan to fund this instead. There’s so much planning involved in just this one event, and because it’s the first one, there definitely are moments when I want to walk away. But then I remember why I am doing all this for. I just get back up and find solutions.

What is your end goal?

My long term career goal has always been to head my own hospitality group, owning many operations and overseeing their performance. I have aspirations to write my own book and eventually when I feel like I’ve done enough, I want to be a lecturer and pass on my knowledge, maybe even start up a school.

What would you consider a successful business?

For me, a successful business would be one that operates smoothly and profitably that no longer requires my presence. This means I’ve done what I can for it and good sign to start another one.

Tell us about a startup or business that you really admire right now?

Definitely Uber and Airbnb. It is shaping consumerism; it’s a business model that generates revenue without owning any physical assets, which to me is genius.

And what are your plans after Buko Melbourne?

I definitely have a few pop-ups lined up in Auckland, and I am in talks of doing a few overseas. I’ll keep those interested in the loop on my website.

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